Evaluation of home lawn management behaviors and sustainable fertility practices in various turfgrass systems
Grubbs, Rebecca Anne
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High-input management regimes used to maintain aesthetic quality and playability of turfgrass are increasingly viewed as non-sustainable and detrimental to the environment. The objective of this work was to evaluate sustainable management practices for large- and small-scale turfgrass systems and to develop a greater understanding of what drives turfgrass management behaviors. Three separate projects were completed: (1) an evaluation of a mobile soil apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) sensor to predict spatial variability of soil properties on golf course fairways, (2) an evaluation of the effect of mowing frequency on turfgrass clipping composition and nitrogen (N) transformations, and (3) a qualitative assessment of homeowner decision-making with respect to the lawn. Spatial mapping and data analysis for six golf course fairways revealed variable relationships between ECa and five soil properties [clay content, cation exchange capacity (CEC), soil pH, and organic matter (OM)]. Further research is warranted to examine the dominant properties driving ECa to ensure the accuracy of a mobile ECa device in mapping soil spatial variability in turfgrass systems. Clippings from four different mowing frequencies were analyzed for tissue content and incubated on soil for 90 days to evaluate N mineralization and ammonia (NH3) volatilization losses. Mowing frequency did not appear to impact tissue composition, however mulched clippings could recycle a significant portion of plant-available N to the soil. More frequent mowing may reduce overall NH3 losses. Fourteen households participated in a qualitative study consisting of two interviews and twenty weekly surveys to collect information on lawn management and decision-making over a growing season. Findings revealed homeowner decision-making in regards to the lawn is a complex process involving personal and social identities, as well as affective attachments. When designing outreach and education tools to shift homeowner behavior on the lawn, researchers should consider a multi-faceted approach that addresses deeper internal drivers. Overall conclusions for this study point to the importance of adopting a diverse, interdisciplinary approach to environmental turfgrass management in order to affect the greatest change and improve overall sustainability of turfgrass systems.